This is the third part of a series on our West Africa transmitter site from the personal involvement of TWR Canada president Ray Alary. Catch up on the ones you’ve missed: Part 1 | Part 2
We were now well on the way to building an office for West Africa in the Ivory Coast, but that was only the first step. We still needed to find a way to provide a big voice for the gospel in this vast area. Trying to get permission to build a replacement station for Radio ELWA was always on our minds, and we were working on that as well. We needed a transmitter station somewhere in West Africa. But where? And how?
Before my arrival in Africa, Stephen and James Burnett (our regional engineer) had made numerous trips to West African countries to try to move the process forward. When I arrived in Africa, this became part of my job.
On one trip to West Africa, I was picked up in the morning by Abdoulaye and one of our radio producers, Macy Domingo. Macy produced programs for TWR as well as for another well-known international Christian broadcaster. She was very well connected with the government officials who were in power as her husband had been a senior minister of the country at one point in time. She was very influential; in fact, I’d heard her referred to as the “Oprah Winfrey of West Africa.”
We set off to a resort town about 1 ½ hours outside of the city. I asked where we were going. They told me we were going to see the first lady of the country, the president’s wife! When we arrived at the resort, I found out that the first lady was there because she was meeting all the senior ministers of government. In fact, she was meeting with them at the time we arrived. Macy simply walked in, with us following. She interrupted the meeting! We were quickly introduced, and Macy told the first lady that she needed to end her meeting right then. Macy had decided we were going to meet the first lady right then and there. And that’s what we did.
Unfortunately, this meeting never resulted in anything positive happening because civil war broke out shortly after our meeting, and the ruling party at the time did not form the next government. This truly was God closing a door that would have caused us no end of trouble if we had walked through it. While we didn’t necessarily see it at the time, later we were grateful.
With the doors closing there, we moved on to Ghana. Ghana had also experienced political turmoil for years. By the time I started going there, they had had a stable government for almost 10 years. The democratically-elected president was finishing his second term in power. Stephen was born and raised in Ghana; he spoke the language and knew the culture, which was a great advantage and help. We went together and met with the private secretary of the prime minister a couple of times. We got to the point of looking at a government transmission site that was still partially in operation. The transmitters were in a state of disrepair, so our plan was to offer to refurbish the transmitters, help them have a stable power source, and basically rebuild the site for them.
We began to have meetings with the equivalent of the CRTC in Canada. I remember those meetings well. They would always encourage us, but always delayed making a decision. I would go and the meeting would always end the same: “Call us. Come back in a month or six weeks, and we will give you an answer.” Finally, at one meeting I asked them, “Are you ever going to give us permission to do this?” They admitted no, but they didn’t want to give us bad news. I left discouraged as we didn’t have anywhere else to go. Ghana was the end of the road. It looked like we would never get the opportunity to be that big voice in West Africa.
We were to learn a lesson about how God works. Up to this point, every time we approached a country looking for a place to put a transmitter, it had been motivated by us, by our team. Even though we believed God would open the door in his time and we continued to look and pray, up to this time we were the ones deciding where to go next. Now it seemed we had come to the end. But God had not abandoned us and the vision he had given us.